Only six days remain until the kick-off of the 2014 Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Built Ford Tough World Finals at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. During the World Finals, the PBR will crown its 2014 World Champion Bull Rider, World Champion Bull, Rookie of the Year and World Finals event winner, all while doling out $2.2 million. The World Champion Rider will walk away with $1 million and a ton of prizes. For good measure, the World Finals will also witness the retirement of several great bulls including one often called the greatest ever, Bushwacker.
Only one weekend remains, and two events, before the final details of the World Finals can be set into stone. While most eyes will be on the last remaining stop on the Built Ford Tough Series, the Monster Energy Bulls on the Beach 15/15 Bucking Battle in Huntington Beach, California, there may actually be just as much drama in the final stop on the PBR’s Touring Pro Division (TPD) in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The TPD is known as the PBR’s feeder system, much like the minor leagues in baseball. Riders can compete at TPD events throughout the season to help them earn enough points to compete at Built Ford Tough Series (BFTS) events. The top 35 riders in the PBR World standings following each weekend get to compete on the BFTS. With the season coming to a close, the top 35 riders are hoping to punch their tickets to Las Vegas to compete in the PBR’s 21st BFT World Finals.
The PBR’s Riding in the Rock in Arkansas is likely to host many of the bubble riders as only 15 cowboys will be on the beach in California. The Little Rock event will be the last chance to earn points for guys like Robson Palermo (35th), Billy Robinson (36th), Jason Malone (37th) and Harve Stewart (38th). With only 57 points separating Robinson and Palermo, with Malone only 111 from 35th, every ride in the two-day event October 17-18 will be critical.
Palermo just returned from an injury suffered early in the season. The only three-time winner of the World Finals is scratching just to be able to compete in Las Vegas again. Injuries to higher ranked riders like Markus Mariluch, and possibly Kody Lohstroh, could allow riders ranked below 35th into the Finals. But those final positions will still determine who gets a spot and who is left at home.
On the other end of the pendulum, riders in Huntington Beach on Saturday, October 18th will be hoping for last minute points to boost their chances at being the guy who walks away with $1 million a week from Sunday. The race for the World title is very close with a lot of riders still in the hunt. Last season’s Rookie of the Year, Joao Ricardo Vieira is leading the way, just about 511 points ahead of fellow Brazilian Fabiano Vieira. A trio of former World Champs (Silvano Alves, Guilherme Marchi and Mike Lee) round out the top five, less than 1,700 points behind the leader.
In Huntington Beach, each of the top 15 riders will match up against one of the PBR’s best bulls. Points will count double for the event meaning the winner earns 200 bonus points along with his ride score. Along with points, the riders are vying for a share of the $21,000 purse offered for the one ride event.
The event is the eighth and final 15/15 Bucking Battle of the season and be broadcast on CBS Sports on Sunday, October 19 following the NFL.
“Southern California fans will be in for a real treat,” PBR Chairman and CEO Jim Haworth said. “The PBR prides itself on finding cutting edge ways to expand the sport and bring it to new venues and audiences. When we played Times Square in New York a few years ago, the event was a big hit and unlike any other the city had ever seen. Now we’re bucking bulls on Huntington Beach, one of the most famous and most popular beaches in Southern California. I don’t think any of us could have ever predicted we’d play such a unique site. It will be a spectacle unto itself and a special event for not only Surf City USA, but also the PBR.”
Headlining the bull power is two-time PBR World Champion Bull Bushwacker (Julio Moreno Bucking Bulls) in his final regular season out. The great bull will retire following the World Finals. In Huntington Beach, Bushwacker is once again the Bad Boy Mowers Bonus Bull; if he is ridden the full eight seconds, the rider will earn an additional $25,000.
Other bulls in the draw are Fire Rock, Stanley Fat Max, Jeremiah, Hungry Eyes, LL Cool J, Mr, Bull, Riding Dirty No Restraint, Oklahoma Bell, Walk Off, Buck Dynasty, Velvet Rain and Alright, Alright, Alright. The field of 15 also features three 2014 World Champion Bull contenders: Bushwacker, I’m A Gangster Too and Mick E Mouse.
The riders will select their match-ups during a press conference on Friday, Oct. 17 on the Huntington Beach Pier Plaza at 11:30 a.m. Along with the top five riders, the field is rounded out with Matt Triplett (6th), Cody Nance (7th), leading rookie Gage Gay (8th), Eduardo Aparecido (9th), Chase Outlaw (11th), Valdiron de Oliveira (12th), Marco Eguchi (13th), Emilio Resende (14th), Kasey Hayes (16th) and Stormy Wing (18th). L.J. Jenkins (10th), Markus Mariluch (15th) and reigning PBR World Champion J.B. Mauney (17th) are out with injuries.
Fabiano Vieira carries the best record in 15/15 Bucking Battles onto the beach; the second-ranked rider in the World standings has ridden four of the six bulls he has faced in this format in 2014, taking the win in Boise with 89.25 points on Cowtown Slinger. Nance and Eguchi have ridden two bulls in the 15/15 Bucking Battles this year while Ricardo Vieira, Alves, Marchi, Triplett, Gay, Aparecido, Outlaw, Resende and Wing have all covered one bull.
On the bull side, Bushwacker leads in nearly every category. The bull has been ridden just twice on the BFTS in 64 outs and holds the record for consecutive buck-offs at 42. Mick E Mouse (Marlene Henry) is still unridden in 25 career outs, making him just as dangerous as the reigning World Champ. Another Julio Moreno Bucking Bull, Mr. Bull has been covered the most of any of the bulls to buck on the beach; the bull has been ridden five times in 18 outs.
Ricardo Vieira will not lose his lead on the beach but it could be much closer as the PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals begins October 22. Riders will compete in five long rounds; the top 15 in the average on Sunday, October 26 will advance to the Championship Round. All rounds will air live on CBS Sports Network at 9 p.m. ET (4 p.m. ET on Sunday) and will also be broadcast by Pro Rodeo Live on SiriusXM Channel 80 Rural Radio.